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Looking for the next straw man

by YES! Staff

We’re still trying to sort out the process by which former City Manager Mitch Johnson lost his post at the March 3 Greensboro City Council meeting. It is clear that Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Anderson Groat and District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny effectively switched sides in the campaign to oust Johnson from his position this time around — this was the fourth vote about Johnson’s job performance since February 2008, when new faces on council brought an end to former Mayor Keith Holliday’s reign of consensus building. Groat and Matheny have their reasons for this, many of which have nothing to do with the way Johnson treated former Greensboro police chief David Wray. Matheny summed it up when he told YES! Weekly: “It’s not really Mitch Johnson. I just want to move on. We hold on to some things, we let things fester in Greensboro…. It was time for everybody to move on.” And now we are faced with a vacuum of leadership caused by a police department in disarray, the removal of a longtime public servant and a city council at least one sitting member called “dysfunctional.” For the record, we disagree with the action taken by city council last week. Council members Mary Rakestraw, at-large, and Trudy Wade, District 5, campaigned for their seats — and won them — largely based on dissatisfaction with the city manager and his role in Wray’s departure, a stance from which they have not wavered. Their position was buoyed by a small but vocal group of citizens, current and former police officers, and journalists with stated agendas that do not necessarily jibe with the whole, unvarnished truth. For example, true-crime writer Jerry Bledsoe, who has written more words on this controversy than anyone else in his 70 -part Rhinoceros Times series “Cops in Black and White,” told Special Prosecutor Jim Coman that his agenda was threefold: to restore Wray’s good name, to get Mitch Johnson fired and to establish that political correctness was the “order of the day” in Greensboro city government. His reporting on the matter, while staying true to his mission, has been shown to omit relevant context and fact. That’s what happens when you start with a conclusion and fill in the blanks to support it. Regardless, it seems as if the saga of Chief Wray is in endgame, with nothing left to sort out save for a couple civil suits, an internal investigation at the GPD and a US Department of Justice investigation on which the statute of limitations is running out. We suppose there are some winners here — those who wanted to see Mitch Johnson fired have certainly accomplished their goal, though it wasn’t entirely for the reasons they’d hoped. The question now becomes: What next? All city council members face an election in November, and without the straw man of a controversial city manager, they will have to run on their actions between then and now. Or maybe the question becomes: Who’s next? Emboldened by their percieved success, perhaps the cabal who lit out for Mitch Johnson will now set their sights upon someone else.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.

‘It’s not really Mitch Johnson. I just want to move on…’

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